Pat Tillman's First Mission Was Jessica Lynch Rescue

"When Mr. Tillman walked in, he and [ex-wife] Dannie hugged across the table. He kind of pulled her across into a desperate embrace,'' Garwood said. "The [notifying] sergeant and I went outside to let them be alone. As we stood there, we could hear them wailing -- these primal kinds of screams."

The death by friendly fire of the nation's most famous soldier came at a bad time for the White House and the Pentagon.

In the weeks prior to Tillman's shooting, American civilian contractors were killed in Falujah, their bodies burned, dragged through the streets and hung from a bridge. An offensive into the city ended in stalemate with 27 Americans killed and 90 wounded..

The torture photos from the Abu Ghraib prison were circulating among official sources and about to burst into TV newscast and newspaper headllines. The 2004 presidential election was less than six months away.

The result was a rapid deployment of the Pentagon's public relations machine.

"The moment the White House learned of Tillman's death, the president's staff went into overdrive," Krakauer reports.

"On April 23, the day after Tillman perished, approximately 200 e-mails discussing the situations were transmitted or received by White House officials, including staffers from Bush's re-election campaign, who suggested to the president that it would be advantageous for him to respond to Tillman's death as quickly as possible," he writes. "Jeanie Mamo -- Bush's director of media affairs -- sent an e-mail to Lawrence Di Rita, Rumsfeld's press secretary, asking for details about the tragedy so she could use them in a White House press release.

"By 11:40 a.m, a statement about Tillman was drafted and forwarded to press secretary Scott McClellan and communications director Dan Bartlett, who immediately approved the statement on behalf of President Bush and then disseminated it to the public, even though doing so violated the 'Military Peace of Mind Act' -- a policy signed by the president just five months earlier which was intended to give families of war casualties twenty-four hours to grieve privately before any public announcement was made about the victim."

Bartlett later said he violated the law to sate the "overwhelming" interest from the media.

Pat Tillman Rejected Lucrative Chance to Leave Army Early

A Silver Star citation was initiated by the Second Ranger Battalion within hours of Tillman's death. The two witnesses were listed as O'Neal and Sgt. Mel Ward. O'Neal, Krakauer writes, later "testified that he was put in front of a computer and told to type up a statement, which he did, but after he wrote it, his words were embellished so egregiously that he never signed it."

On April 29, a week after Tillman's death, the acting secretary of the Army signed the commendation. On April 30, a press release was issued, heralding Tillman for "his selfless actions after his Ranger element was ambushed by anti-coalition insurgents."

"Where Men Win Glory" chronicles Tillman's remarkable rise through the NFL through the late 1990s, to perhaps the pinnacle -- when he was named to Sports Illustrated's All Pro Team in 2000. It also shows Tillman's sense of honor and loyalty.

Krakauer recounts an amusing conversation between Tillman and his agent, Frank Bauer, about a lucrative offer from the St. Louis Rams that came in at the end of the 2000 season.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...